Paul Gonsalves: I Surrender Dear

There were good reasons why Duke Ellington put up with the drug and alcohol problems of Paul Gonsalves for so many years. "Paul Gonsalves is a wonderful musician," said Duke. "Highly skilled, with tremendous imagination, he is equipped to perform whatever comes into his mind." Of course, Paul's 27 choruses during "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, which jumpstarted Ellington's floundering career, didn't hurt either. "I was born at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956," Duke later said. Yet despite those frenzied 27 choruses, Duke and Johnny Hodges always thought that Gonsalves was at his best on ballads.

While Gonsalves said that Coleman Hawkins was his main influence, he also admired Don Byas and Ben Webster for their sounds. On "I Surrender Dear," Gonsalves's yearning, unaccompanied rubato intro precedes his heartfelt reading of the melody played with a tone seamlessly blending Byas and Webster. His graceful arpeggios and subtle embellishments contribute to a totally riveting interpretation. Kelly solos briefly and sparsely before Gonsalves suddenly returns with a swooping run and then additional filigreed phrasings. Kelly gets down to business next with a more assertive, driving solo statement. Gonsalves reenters, this time with a Hawkins-like swagger and edge to his tone, before an abrupt ending that leaves the listener craving more.

June 13, 2008 · 4 comments


Red Norvo: I Surrender, Dear

This may be Red Norvo's date, but the stars on this track are trombonist Jenney and pianist Wilson. Jenney is a lyrical player who makes every note count. He is little remembered today, but in 1940 he won the Down Beat poll on his instrument, and this performance displays his melodic sensibility. Teddy Wilson's mere presence is noteworthy amidst this rare integrated band from 1934, but his swinging piano solo is more tangible evidence of why he was enlisted for the gig. This track is a step below the xylophonist's most celebrated work of the era -- Norvo newbies should first check out "In a Mist" or "Dance of the Octopus" -- but this is still a solid performance by one of the finest mid-1930s jazz ensembles.

May 28, 2008 · 0 comments


Thelonious Monk: I Surrender, Dear

Brilliant Corners presents some of Monk's finest work in a combo setting, but don't ignore the album's one solo piano track. This version of "I Surrender, Dear" is vintage Monk. Here we have hints of Harlem stride mixed with whole-tone runs, acerbic chords that hang above the piano sounding board like a worrisome fog, and that sputtering stop-and-start sensibility which always seems to threaten to derail the song, yet never really does. There are a couple points when I feel that Monk is about ready to walk away from the piano in mid-track, go outside for a breather, and then try another take. But no, he's just thrown me a head fake, and keeps on moving to the destination only he knows, and the rest of us must accept on blind faith. All I can say is "I Surrender, Oh Dear!"

May 04, 2008 · 0 comments


Lew Tabackin: I Surrender, Dear

Lew Tabackin has always been a fascinating jazz musician, one who for many years was the featured soloist in the Jazz Orchestra led by his wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi. On flute, he is a fresh and highly original master, with a wide-ranging approach that can jump from European classical to Far Eastern in sound and texture. Yet on tenor sax, his influences bubble to the surface and he joyfully and deftly celebrates them while still retaining his own personality. The ever-appealing 1931 tune "I Surrender, Dear" has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Thelonious Monk and beyond. Tabackin plays the melody with a Ben Websterish tone, at a lingeringly slow tempo, but suddenly the pace accelerates and Tabackin is soaring, his fleet-fingered single-note lines laden with tasteful arpeggios. After a quick reprise of the theme, he reignites for part two of his solo, his darting, acrobatic phrasing and tonal quality placing him somewhere between Don Byas and Sonny Rollins. After Green's varied, two-handed driving solo, Tabackin and Nash engage in a delightful dual improvisation. Tabackin then restates the theme for a final time, but with Green taking on the bridge in an appropriately Monkish manner. Sounds too derivative, you say? No, this is musicianship of the highest order – try resisting its allure.

April 01, 2008 · 0 comments


Howard Alden & George Van Eps: I Surrender, Dear

Although the guitar may appear ancient, the modern instrument with six single strings has been the standard for only 200 years, having evolved to expand the range of precursors with four or five paired strings. In the 1930s, jazzman George Van Eps upped the ante by adding another bass string. (This one goes to seven!) Half a century later, the 79-year-old pioneer was joined by his ex-student Howard Alden, a mere pup of 34, for this unaccompanied duet, accounting for 14 strings vibrating sympathetically—the jazz version of quantum physicists' string theory. Impeccably, imperturbably, a shopworn ballad becomes 7th heavenly.

December 10, 2007 · 0 comments


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